Lansing, MI- Stefanie Shall got her first taste for anime conventions at Florida Community College at Jacksonville. As an artist and the president of FCCJ's anime club, she “con-hopped” across the country. But in 2009, when she and her husband Joe moved from their bustling anime community to Michigan, she realized the problem.
“There wasn’t anything in the middle of the state.” Shall said.
After spending time at other conventions in Michigan, such as Detroit’s Youmacon, Shall and her husband rose to meet the challenge. With the Shalls as Convention Chairs, Shuto Con made its glorious debut in March of 2011 at the Lansing Center with an impressive 1,350 attendees. By 2012, the attendance doubled.
This year, from April 5-7, Shall expects over 4,000 fans.
“You have to engage your audience,” she said, attributing the convention’s success to involving many fan communities. “We’re an Interactive Cosplay convention, first and foremost.”
Interactive Cosplay is a contest where fans not only dress up but also act out their favorite characters. Marked by red ribbons, interactive cosplayers have the chance to win the title of King and Queen of Cosplay.
“It’s really fun to see Vash the Stampede have a fighting match with the Hulk,” Shall laughed. She recalled another year where Cosplay Queen Suki (Avatar: The Last Airbender) stole King Jack Sparrow’s jar of dirt until he acknowledged the throne.
Shall described how the convention engages fans by recruiting artists for everything from contests to Artist Alley, which filled up in just two weeks this year.
New discussion panel topics ranging from traditional anime like Sailor Moon to American cartoons like Adventure Time and My Little Pony speak to the diverse fan bases attending.
“I’m a firm believer that you need to accommodate lots of people, not just anime fans.” Shall said.
After 9 PM, the 18+ panels, such as a dating auction, will be available for mature audiences (with photo ID) in a new wing upstairs.
In addition to new panels, this year’s voice acting talent will impress Dragon Ball fans; Sean Schemmel (Goku), Christopher Sabat (Vegeta, Piccolo, Yamcha), Sonny Strait (Krillin), Colleen Clinkenbeard (Gohan) and Chris Rager (Hercule) will have their first reunion in years. Artistic talent this year includes Doug Smith (“Voices For” Art Director), Rikki and Tavisha Simmons (Shutterbox fantasy series) and others.
Due to popular demand, old favorites such as the Struggle Tournament, Masquerade Ball, Game Room and Rave will also be making a comeback.
Shall also insisted that they bring the right attitude, stressing that Shuto Con is now a “Safe Space”, which focuses on creating an anti-discrimination environment where fans can enjoy the convention regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual preference.
“If you come to Shuto Con with hate in your heart, we don’t want you to be here.” Shall said.
From new policies to talented guests, Michigan fans can look forward to another year of gathering in a community that shares a passion for anime, the same passion which inspired Shall to create Shuto Con.